St. Lilo? (plus Lilo and Stitch)

Well, maybe not… But the girl’s name Lilo, as in Lilo and Stitch, is complicated.

Some people think it’s derived from the Hawaiian name of King William Charles Lunalilo. (He was a Protestant, and William and Charles were his baptismal names.)

Lunalilo’s name was “high” (luna) + “lost [from sight]” (lilo).

So the character Lilo always getting lost, or going out of eyeshot of the adults, or going high up into space and high into galactic affairs… well, it makes sense.

OTOH, the female name “Lilo” supposedly means “generous one” in Hawaiian, and is a reference to a generous goddess.

Hawaiian is a complicated language, by all accounts, and there are a lot of expressions that have traditional implications that aren’t necessarily literal. I don’t have enough info to say what is right or wrong. But it seems like it’s a word about making something go from X to Y, or change states from X to Y. And if it has no noun after it, it would be something lost and gone forever, because it has no destination state.

But the character Lilo has the last name Pelekai, so being a Pelekai is her destination state. If that is how it works.

More meanings for the word “lilo.

Anyway… “ohana” does mean family, but the expression is about all the green shoots coming up from a root. (Very similar to the imagery of a Tree of Jesse, when you think about it.)

I got this because…

Thinking about the cartoon and not being enthused about the live action idea, I’ve been reading Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith, and it’s an interesting read.

The implication of the first chapter is that Lilo in the animated series might be a sort of divine/fey child (kupua) born into Nani’s family (or that Stitch is, or that Stitch is sort of Lilo’s fated fey power or spirit animal, or something like that).

Children like this are supposed to be treated well, because they are a sort of test or proposal from some nearby god (akua), who wants to become the family’s guardian god (aumakua).

But if the child is not treated well, bad things could happen. (Oops.)

A kupua child would be either very ugly, or very beautiful. They would be inhumanly strong, but their special powers would only have effect around the district where he/she lived. A kupua may become an aumakua after death, also. But generally, a kupua was a hero. (Who often fought or competed with other kupuas.)

(Kupu is a plant sprouting up from a root. Kupuna is an ancestor.)

Chapter 29 talks about kupua stories, which are considered fictional and not historical (or not historical mythology). The kupua child is precocious, a ravenous eater, mischievous, aggressive. He is a good friend to those suffering injustice, and a terrible enemy to those who do wrong. Sometimes the kupua does wrong too, punishing innocent friends or lovers. The kupua also avenges or rescues members of his family, or close friends.

Kupuas have various powers that belong to them. Many can transform into an animal shape and back. Some have animal friends, or menehune friends that just look like animals. They often have magic weapons or magic fighting powers. Some can travel magically into the heavens while seeming to be dead, only to awaken from their magical coma after months.

I think it’s possible that Myrtle, the antagonist mean girl, is also supposed to be a child with special powers, because honestly she seems to have mind-altering mean girl powers to control both kids and adults. (Especially in the animated series.) She would be an antagonist kupua, like the part-shark or part-squid kupuas in stories.

A lot of kupua heroes also find their own guardian gods, ghost gods, etc., and consult them on their adventures. And Elvis, being dead at the time in which the movie is set, could be construed as such a found ancestor/mentor for Lilo. Especially since she is an orphan.

The other thing going on with Hawaiian myths that seems to be echoed is that, while originally the first settlers (including gods) allegedly came from Tahiti (aka Kahiki), there were later waves of gods and human settlers. Sometimes very bad things happened if the newcomers didn’t respect the oldbies, and vice versa.

And of course the whole greater plot of Lilo and Stitch is about collisions between cultures and people, and is full of misunderstandings and adoptions. And instead of a voyage across the Pacific navigated by currents and the stars, we have visitors actually from the stars. So that’s pretty neat.

But none of this stuff is explicitly said, which was definitely the best way to keep out of trouble in the last few decades.

Hawaiian Mythology isn’t a book for kiddies, though. There’s a fair amount of info about human sacrifice rituals, and about the connection between war gods, divination, and sorcery. Some gods are cannibals (albeit depicted as baddies, mostly). Plus a lot of nekkid rituals, death for violating sacred customs or making a mistake in rituals, and so on.

We also learn that “moana” means “ocean” (as it does in a lot of other Polynesian languages).

And Nani? It means “glory, beauty, a good thing.

Finally, the Lilo and Stitch opening song is mostly a song praising King David Kalakaua, the successor to Lunalilo and the last king of Hawai’i. (The last queen was his sister, Lydia Lili’uokalani.) It’s blended with a song about Queen Lili’uokalani. Disney got copyright on the blend of two public domain songs, and this caused a lot of resentment.

Apparently the other sore point is that the direct to video sequel (Stitch Gets a Glitch) briefly retold the story of Pele, her sister Hi’iaka, and Lohi’au, the guy they both ended up in conflict over (and with) — as some sort of revival of a prince by true love’s kiss story. Um.

Yeah, I can see where that would be a problem, because it’s a story about Hi’iaka desperately trying to avoid sleeping with her sister Pele’s crush while fetching him back to Pele, while the guy makes moves on everyone (including Hi’iaka’s female best friend, who came along to help). And Hi’iaka throws Lohi’au off a cliff at one point and kills him, whereas Pele revives him.

Yeah, there’s a kiddie story of twue wuv.

So something very weird is going on with the story construction — somewher between movie 1 with hidden depths, and movie 2 that misconstrues explicit cultural stuff. I would assume that different writers were involved during development, possibly in an uncredited way… Or that Chris Sanders, who originated the Lilo and Stitch story, was the knowledgeable one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.